By Juliette Koronkiewicz
Shorter days and cooler temperatures are tell-tales that summer is leaving and autumn has begun. There is no better place to experience autumn than on Long Island. Growing up on Long Island my whole life and traveling to other places in the country, hands down, Long Island is my favorite. Some say I am a bit of an “expert” on the best places where you can experience autumn at its finest; from u-pick apples and pumpkins, to where to find the best cider doughnut. Now, I want to share all of my favorite spots with you. Here are my favorite places to enjoy all that autumn has to offer on Long Island’s East End.
Best Apple Picking: Wickham’s Fruit Farm in Cutchogue
Long Island locals all have their favorite location for prime apple picking, but if you want to try to avoid crowds and get a truly authentic experience, Wickham’s Fruit Farm is the place to go! Wickham’s fruit is grown on some of the oldest continually cultivated land in the country, much of the farm dating from 1661. A large proportion of Wickham farm land has been placed in Suffolk County’s Farmland Preservation program, so for generations to come, this land is “forever agriculture.” Don’t want to pick your own? Visit their farmstand on-site for apples and an array of other seasonal fruit and vegetables.
Best Pumpkin Picking: Helen’s Pumpkin Farm in Aquebogue
This is a great family friendly place that offers hours of fun with the large corn maze, up to 20 acres of pumpkins, concession stand and fully stocked farm stand. You can pick pumpkins that have already been brought in from the fields or you can venture out on your own to find your ‘Great Pumpkin.’ At 59 cents per pound, which includes specialty gourds and giant pumpkins that can weigh up to 100 pounds, Helen’s Pumpkin Farm is one of the best prices you will find.
Best Fall Festival: Montauk Fall Festival in Montauk
Every October, Long Island locals take the ride to one of the farthest points of the Island to Montauk’s Annual Fall Festival. This annual event, held on the Village Green, celebrates fall with a clam chowder contest, music, Long Island beers and wine, Oktoberfest foods, games for the children, a farmers market and more. This is one festival that is perfect for the whole family.
Best Hard Apple Cider: Woodside Orchards in Jamesport
Since 1982, Woodside Orchards has not only been growing apples but making fresh hard apple cider. You can visit Woodside’s tasting room everyday, except Wednesday, and try their various types of cider, or order a pint and relax in their picnic area outside around the fire. You can also buy or bring your own growler to enjoy the cider at home. While you are there, don’t forget to purchase their doughnuts, fresh honey and a carmel apple to go. Did I forget to mention their free chocolate chip cookies you can enjoy while you are there?
Best Vineyards: Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue
Going wine tasting on Long Island is a necessity. Long Island’s East End is filled with vineyards and autumn is the perfect time to see the harvest. If there is any vineyards you are going to visit, Bedell Cellars is a must! The first grapevine was planted in 1980 and since then is now widely regarded as the benchmark winery in the Eastern U.S. Their wines are grown on three vineyard sites across 75 acres, with some of the oldest grapevines in the country. Their historic barn, built in 1919, has been named one of the Top 25 Tasting Rooms in America by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. So order a glass of your favorite red or white (I suggest getting the Sauvignon Blanc 2015), relax on the barn patio and watch the the winemakers harvest their crops.
Best Farm Stand: Lewin Farms in Calverton
Every trip I make out to the East End always ends with a trip to Lewin Farm Stand. Now in its fourth generation of farmers, Lewin Farm Stand offers a full line of fresh fruits and vegetables; many of these are grown on their farm. They also get other local Long Island produce from nearby farms to offer you the freshest quality, locally grown produce possible. Strawberries, cauliflower, squash and pears are just a few of the crops they grow on-site that you can bring home to make your favorite recipes.
Best Place for Families: Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck
Harbes is the perfect all-in-one stop for you and your family. Although Harbes has many locations on Long island, their Mattituck farm is the largest. They have everything from pumpkin and apple picking, to hayrides and delicious food. Your children can stay entertained by the Harbes staff in their 10 acre ‘Barnyard Adventure’ park while you relax, drink some wine in the tasting room and enjoy the crisp autumn air. Children can also enjoy a hayride, gem mining and their two corn mazes. Make sure you get there before October 30th because they close for the winter season.
Best Brewery: Greenport Harbor Brewery in Greenport and Peconic
There are many breweries on Long Island but one stands out in particular. Greenport Harbor Brewery is known for their unique beers with their unique names. Stop in at one of their locations to taste their seasonal craft beers. Want to taste something that makes you all warm and cozy inside? Try the Leaf Pile Ale with a cinnamon sugar rim. This beer is a fresh take on autumn beers with ginger, cinnamon, whole bean vanilla, allspice, nutmeg, and pumpkin. Not a pumpkin beer person? Don’t worry because Greenport Harbor Brewery has something for everyone’s palate like the Harbor Ale, Otherside IPA or Black Duck Porter. Whatever your decide to try, fall into autumn at Greenport.
This was probably the hardest decision to make. Olish’s Farm Stand and Briermere Farms are the best locations for getting pies. Olish’s has 31 varieties of fresh pies baked daily to choose from everyday. When you pick up one of their pies you can still feel the heat of the pie coming through the box. That’s what I call fresh! Their signature pie is called ‘Fruit of the Forest’ and includes strawberry rhubarb, apple, blackberries and blueberries, and it’s absolutely delicious! While there also check out their farmstand, assortment of honey, flowers and more.
Briermere Farms has some of the best pies on Long Island but one pie that I can’t seem to get enough of is their Blueberry Cream Pie. All of their pies, jams, jellies and syrups are made with fresh ingredients. Their website has directions on how to freeze their pies so stock up!
Best Apple Cider doughnuts: Harbes Farm in Mattituck
We covered apple picking and hard apple cider, but your trip to the East End is not complete without Harbes Apple Cider doughnuts. Visit Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck and get a fresh dozen right off the doughnut machine. Wash your doughnut down with some hot apple cider or coffee, and you will definately get into the fall mood. If you can’t make it out to their bakery, you can order their doughnuts online.
Best Haunted House: Gateway Haunted Playhouse in Brookhaven
Every year from the end of September to Halloween, Gateway Playhouse turns their theatre into a haunted town filled with the things that nightmares are made of. Played by professional actors, you will definitely have the scare of your life. There will be a little of a wait for your group to go in but don’t worry, there are plenty of things going on to keep you entertained. There are side shows, food, and drinks for children and adults. You also get to hangout with some of the creepy characters that are walking around. If you are worried about this haunted playhouse being too creepy for your children, they also have a ‘Not-So-Scary Kids Adventure’ from Oct. 8-30th where they will get a guided walk through, face painting, balloon art, pumpkin bouncer and more.
Best Corn Maze: Jamesport Giant Pumpkin Corn Maze at Harbes Western Farm in Jamesport
This five acre corn maze will keep you entertained for a while. The Giant Pumpkin has lost it’s crown in a sprawling five acre corn maze and it’s your job to find that missing crown. This is a great attraction for people of all ages and will take you about 45 mins to complete. Don’t worry about getting lost, there are staff members that will help you along the way.
Best Fall Hiking Trail: Blydenburgh Park in Hauppauge
If you are looking to a relaxing hike or boat ride to take in the fall colors, Blydenburgh Park is the best choice. There are many trails to take depending if you are looking for a nice stroll or looking for a challenge. This 627 acre park with richly forested hills and valleys around Stump Pond is one of the many things to do at this park. Rent a boat a row around the pond, bring your tackle and go fishing, stroll through the Blydenburgh Farm and New Mill Historic District featuring a grist mill, or make a day of it and enjoy the day in their picnic area. Whatever you decide to do, Blydenburgh Park has something for everyone.
Best Place to Stop for Dinner: The Modern Snack Bar in Riverhead
Known for their Soft Shell Crabs, the Modern Snack Bar has been a North Fork landmark for authentic home cooking. Started in 1950, The Modern Snack Bar is a throwback to that era. Brothers John and Otto Wittmeier believes in serving good quality food in an atmosphere that hasn’t changed since the day they opened. “Consistency is the key to our success,” says John. Roast Turkey, Roast L.I. Duck, Lobster Salad, Meatloaf and their mashed turnips are just a few of the recipes you will find on the menu that have been passed down in the Wittmeier family. Wash your meal down with some draft beer or a glass of wine, or try one of their seasonal mixed drinks like the Happy Apple or Pumpkin Shandy. Don’t forget to have a slice of their Grasshopper Pie. No matter if you live on Long Island or travel from other states, “we take care of everyone like they’re family,” says John.
Best Place to stop for Ice Cream: Magic Fountain in Mattituck
I know what you’re thinking, “Ice cream in the fall? Isn’t it too cold?” But with their seasonal selections of homemade ice cream, such as Lavender and Black Raspberry Crumble, you will want to make the trip every weekend. Since 1977, Mr. Chaudry Ali has aimed to bring back the sensation of having a good time while enjoying what you eat. So take a ride out to Mattituck and try one of their Flavors of the Month, like Pumpkin, Fig & Honey, and Chocolate Pudding Pie. You won’t be disappointed.